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UPDATED May 21, 2013

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If you are a non-U.S. citizen living outside of the U.S. and you are afraid to return to your home country due to a fear of persecution (mistreatment/abuse), you might be eligible for refugee status, which would allow you to come to the U.S. legally.

Basic information

back to topWho is eligible for refugee status? Where is refugee status granted?

Refugee status may be granted to someone who:

  • is outside of his/her country of nationality (and outside of the U.S.);
  • is of special humanitarian concern to the United States;
  • Is not firmly resettled in another country; and
  • is unable or unwilling to return to, or to get protection from, his/her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on one or more of the following:
    • race,
    • religion,
    • nationality,
    • membership in a particular social group, or
    • political opinion.*
The refugee status is granted in an American consulate or Embassy outside of the U.S.  The refugee enters the U.S. with a “Refugee status” in his/her I-94 card (Arrival/Departure Record).

* INA §101(a)(42)(A); see USCIS website

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back to topWhen should I apply for refugee status?

You have to apply for refugee status before coming to the U.S.  If you are already in the U.S., you would apply for asylum instead. Go to our Asylum page for more information.

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back to topHow do I apply for refugee status?

You must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee.  For more information on the referral criteria, see the “USRAP Consultations and Worldwide Processing Priorities” on the USCIS website.  If you receive a referral, you will receive help filling out your application and then be interviewed abroad by a USCIS officer who will determine whether or not you are eligible for refugee resettlement in the U.S.*

* See the USCIS website

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